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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2001/08/20
by David Steinberg

Odds and Ends

*Part 1:
Feeling Groovy…
...or why I didn’t see Trey Tour*
Groove style playing has taken over the jambands world. It seems that
every new band that emerges plays in that manner. Even song
orientated bands like String Cheese Incident and Phish have taken
vacations in Grooveland.
TAB are a fun band. Let me say it again to minimize flames. TAB are
a fun band. They’re happy, and full of energy, and danceable, and
feature one of my all time favorite musicians…. and if they were in
Seattle they’d be at best the 4th band playing here.
Why so low? Perhaps an analogy is in order. What the TAB did was to
put pieces together. It’s like if they put together a jigsaw puzzle
and then held it together to show you how it makes a pretty picture.
Look if Tony plays this bass line, and the horns play this part etc
etc it sounds really cool. Let’s demonstrate it some more. Isn’t
that neat how they fit? Let’s play it again. However I’m spoiled in
this town. We have bands like Das Root. They also put together a
jigsaw puzzle, but they do it with constantly changing pieces. They
manage to build together a groove machine, but every single player is
constantly modifying the parts that they’re playing. Focus in on a
player and you’ll hear the subtle changes that they are making.
The advantage to this is that your jams become a lot more organic.
The biggest weakness of TAB is that they couldn’t turn corners at all.
All of their jams that I have heard have distinct parts. There’s the
part where the band lays down groove A while Trey solos amazingly on
top of it. Then maybe the band will continue to lay down the same
groove while Trey and Jennifer dance for a bit. Then there will be a
sudden switch to a completely different groove. It’s not bad music,
but what I find more interesting is a slow evolution. When you let
your players slowly change their parts (and have other people base
their changes on the changes you make), all sorts of interesting
things can happen. The jam itself is in charge of the music, not the
musicians. The music becomes a lot more surprising and a lot more
interesting. [1]
Trey, if these Seattle Oysterhead rumors are true, explore our city
for a day or two. Come see Das Root (every Thursday at the Scarlet
Tree. I’ll give you directions if you want ;) ) or head to the loft;
I’m sure we could arrange a Loft Party in your honor. See the power
of changing the groove and then free your band. Let everyone explore
and the music will follow. *Part 2:
Hempfest *
Seeing as Rockin’ Teenage
Combo and Living
Daylights will be playing at it, I will be wandering down to
Hempfest this weekend. I went last year, and that experience leads me
to give this advice. If people really want pot to be decriminalized
in our lifetime, you can’t continue to hold these events the way
you’re doing now.
Hempfest last year was a joke. I’m the kind of person that the event
needs to reach out to; I don’t smoke but I have a lot of friends who
do, and I think that the current drug laws are a joke. When I left,
I was so annoyed that I started to wonder if there was a case for them
after all.
It’s simple. People think that pot makes people stupid and easily
pliable. Don’t encourage that stereotype. Try to discourage people
from selling head shop idiotic t-shirts (such as the ‘Petting Zoo’ t
shirt I saw with an arrow pointing down). Don’t overstate the case
for the power of hemp – I walked around saying, ‘Did you know that the
oil from one hemp seed could power a city the size of Seattle for a
month?!?!’ ... and people believed me because it wasn’t much less
ridiculous than the claims made – or if you do, have a much better
source than, ‘Ummmm I think I read it in The Emperor’s New Clothes.’
Don’t argue endlessly about hemp if what you mean is, ‘Cool this means
I could grow ‘hemp’ and they can’t stop me.’ Don’t argue endlessly
about medical marijuana if what you mean is, ‘Cool, then all I have to
do is find an easy doctor.’ Those tactics ruin their movements along
with yours.
What should you do? Well have a good time. Walk around and let
people know that just because you smoke, doesn’t mean that you’re an
idiot or scary. Talk with people, see some tunes, be DISCREET
about what you’re doing on the side – the cops use Hemp Fest as an
excuse to bust people – but above all remember that on this issue,
most people would be on your side if they could get over the hippy
aspect. Focus constantly on the fact that thousands upon thousands of
people are in JAIL for consuming a substance that’s safer than either
alcohol or pot. Keep asking what right the government has to
interfere with your body (to appeal to the left) or private industry
(to suck in the right). If a conservative starts arguing with you
about it, ask them how long it will be until the government starts
using their shiny new confiscatory powers to take away people’s
property if they have the wrong kinds of guns… or bibles….
The people are on your side here, unless you drive them away. Make
like a frustrated parent and turn this car around. *Part 3:
Eating My Words *
Speaking of turning things around…
I closed last month’s column with a statement that I wouldn’t be
traveling to see live music anymore. Then I went to Hornings.
Despite dealing with a lack of sleep due to heat and peacocks (those
birds are LOUD), I really really enjoyed 2 of the shows. Really
really enjoyed. Reflecting upon it, 5 of the last 6 SCI shows I have
seen have left me wanting more – well I WOULD have wanted more in KC
if I weren’t so sick. When they announced their fall
tour schedule, I looked at the dates. The NC/SC/GA run looks
interesting. I might just do it. It would bring symmetry to my year
if nothing else; I traveled down there this March for Trey tour.
And I can tell you this. SCI will piss me off during these shows.
They will do a bunch of group hoots or sing a song with lyrics that I
find trite or something. Come November, I’m sure I will write about
it. When I do, people will attack me on the Incidentalist and
I’ll have people call me jaded and otherwise mock me. However, during
that week, I’m also sure that I’ll be presented with moments of beauty
that will make the entire trip worthwhile. There will be a Black
Clouds or a Smile or a Shakin’ The Tree or even (please please please)
a Land’s End. They might not be my perfect band, but they do make me
happy. What more do I ever ask for out of life than an excuse to
travel and moments of bliss. See y’all in the south. Waffle House,
here I come!
[1] Note: this comment is based on listening to quite a bit of Trey
summer tour, but I haven’t heard all of it. If there are examples of
that kind of evolution, I’d love to hear them. I love hearing Trey
after all and I’d love to love his band.
David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from
New Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power
of live music at the Capitol Centre in 1988 and has never been the
same. His Phish stats website is at
and he was the stats section editor for The Phish Companion.

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